Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The Righteous Among The Nations
Had you been a "Gentile" living during the Holocaust, how do you think you would have responded? Would you have started to observe the increasingly rigid bans against patronizing Jewish businesses? Would you have continued your long-standing friendship with your Jewish friends?
Would you have been fearful (probably) but still continued to do the right thing? Or would you have cowered and in fear walked the other way? Looked the other way?? Pretended you didn't see the beating that the elderly Jewish man just got? Would you have have joined in jeering and taunting the beautiful Jewish Mama walking down the street pushing her baby carriage just because you were afraid?
How about putting your life on the line to save the life of a Jew or Jews? Would you have been the family that hid an Anne Frank and her family? Would you have been a Corrie Ten Boom and refused to give up the secret room in your house that was housing precious souls, and gone to the Concentration Camps yourself?!
There is a special name for the Gentiles who aided and protected Jewish souls during the Holocaust--"The Righteous Among the Nations".
The "Righteous Among the Nations" are still regarded with respect and honor this many years later, and there are even occasions where they are given special acknowledgements. Why?? Because their actions spoke to the dignity, worth and value of the human lives of the Jewish people. Because they saved lives. They made a difference.
From some of my earliest days, I grew up immersed in Jewish History and the Holocaust. I heard the story of Anne Frank and her family when I was a tender 5 or 6 year old, standing by the bedside of my oldest brother who was paralyzed by a brain tumor, turning pages for him as he read the book. We had an agreement, Jeff and I--I would turn--he would read aloud. So the stage was set for me, and the seed of desire was born in my heart to be a defender of the weaker, and a protector of the helpless.
Last week, I took Katya on Thursday, and again on Friday to visit the possible school placement. What I saw and experienced in those two days horrified me. What I saw and heard, broke my heart. What I saw and heard made me wonder, "Where are the righteous among the nations in that classroom?!"
No, no one was rounded up for the gas chamber. No one was shot. But--the Holocaust did not start with those things either. Don't forget, Hitler came for the Developmentally Disabled as a "test" before his full scale slaughter of the Jewish people. Entire hospitals and care homes were emptied and the residents killed, wiping out the "undesirables".
And remember, Hitler didn't start with killing them first, either.
Other things came first. Lack of respect. Viewing them as a little less than human. Doing things to them against their will. Seeing them as a burden to be borne instead of as the awesome lives created to be embraced and enjoyed for the unique and special people they each were.
Little things, my friends . . . little attitudes. Little actions . . . growing bigger, and bigger, and uglier and uglier.
Last week, I saw the tiny seeds of that overpowering and horrible evil present in the classroom that was being suggested to us for Katya.
I heard and saw anger. I saw kids treated with repeated lack of respect. I saw kids restrained for no good reason. I saw little joy, humor, or gentleness on the part of the aides towards the precious kiddos in their charge.
That first day I came home absolutely overwhelmed. I crawled into my bed and cocooned. Emotionally and physically I was wrung out. I was sick at heart. I could not blog about what I had seen and heard that day, for several reasons. The next day, I had to go back again. What I saw that day was even worse. What I saw that day sickened me to the point that had I not been a determined woman, I would have screamed at the school staff, and run from the building. Katya was upset by what we observed and heard. She didn't want to go back to that school any more.
No matter the lure of a teacher fluent in ASL for Katya, I could not put her into that environment. Even if it had been educationally appropriate for her (which overall it was NOT when I observed for longer periods of time) it was not an appropriate placement for ANY child due to the level of harsh voices, and heavy-handed treatment of the children. Some of what was done appeared to be stemming from a lack of understanding and education about the needs of the children. But in general the attitude was as if they felt that they were in a war with the kiddos, and that they WERE going to win it, by whatever means necessary, so they grimly soldiered on in the battle. Many times their approach escalated problems with the students, and they didn't seem to know how to defuse situations most of the time.
Was the teacher herself part of this treatment of the kiddos?? No, absolutely NOT. She never related to them in any but the kindest and most appropriate manner that I saw. However, did she speak up and address or defuse the situations that were going on under her nose with the aides? No, she did not.
I can only imagine how bad things get in the classroom when a parent is not present, if they were so heavy-handed when I was present.
We prayed, God made it clear--Katya is not going there. There is no way she is being treated day after day in the manner I observed there in her current placement. Were she being treated like that, she wouldn't be going off to school each morning happily as she does. I saw how quickly she became insecure and anxious at the things she was observing.
So, the question I'm asking myself, now, is: "Where are the righteous among the nations who will speak up and protect these children? Where are those willing to risk their necks to create change for the good?!"
Yes, I'm speaking up. Yes, I'm doing what I can. But I am only one voice. The parents of the children are only a few more voices. Pray for more "righteous among the nations" to rise to the defense and protection of the developmentally disabled and differently able-d among us.
The school has "circled the wagons" even after the appropriate steps were followed to report the significant things I observed, especially on Friday. Nothing appears to be being done to address the serious problems. I will continue to speak out and do what I can--because being righteous when the big stuff comes down starts with the day-to-day small things. We too can be just as guilty as the Gentiles who during the Holocaust turned a blind eye and walked off, telling themselves, "It's not my concern. I don't dare because if I do, I will have terrible things happen to me and my family as well."
Will you stand as a righteous person in defense of those who need defended??!